When the dining halls are laden with berry meringue tarts, macaroon brownies and lemon poppy seed muffins, it is often a challenge to resist these mouthwatering desserts. Wellesley College’s Claflin Bakery is responsible for supplementing meals in all dining halls except Pomeroy with desserts and and other baked goods.
While under Wellesley Fresh’s domain, Claflin Bakery is separate from the five dining halls. Though most students are aware that Claflin Bakery produces breakfast pastries and desserts, the bakery is more integrated in students’ diets than they realize.
“I just know that they bake stuff,” said an anonymous first-year student.
In addition to “[baking] stuff”, Claflin Bakery also produces dining hall breads, retails specialty desserts and caters towards special events such as Senior Soirée.
In order to produce everything, Claflin’s first employee arrives at 4:30 a.m to begin the breakfast pastries and retail baked goods. By 6 a.m., six employees are hard at work delivering the breakfast pastries to all dining halls except Pomeroy. In Pomeroy the pastries are made in the dining hall due to kosher regulations.
By 7 a.m., breads for the dining halls are made, including hamburger buns, baguettes, pizza dough and sliced bread. At 9 a.m., the lunch desserts are delivered and preparation for breakfast the next day begins as “cookies [are] made and scooped, bars mixed and spread.” As Claflin Bakery Manager Lori Davidson described, “Our oven is almost never empty from 5 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. By 3 p.m. the bakery is quiet … and then we do it all over again the next day.”
According to Davidson, teamwork is crucial to accomplishing everything efficiently. The system closely resembles an assembly line, as each of the seven union staff members has a specialized role. The team consists of two assistant bakers, two bench baker helpers, a decorator, a delivery driver and a storekeeper/ dishwasher. Under Davidson’s direction, they mostly work weekdays, though a Saturday shift was just added to accommodate the workload.
Even with the busy schedule, Claflin Bakery tries to “use as many local or sustainable ingredients as possible,” according to Davidson. Claflin obtains its ingredients from local and national purveyors. Claflin’s produce purveyor provides the bakery with first pick of locally grown produce before purchasing it from other farms farther away.
Additionally, Claflin only uses cane sugar to keep their sucrose source vegan. In keeping with the sustainable theme, the cane sugar company reuses the cane husks to power their processing plant.
“I appreciate that Claflin Bakery is a sustainable and nut-free facility,” said student Sarah Wong ’20.
With these sustainable ingredients, Claflin Bakery tries to plan recipes around seasons to use ingredients that are fresh and available. Davidson described that they try to make “lighter items towards the spring, summer, and early fall…heavier ones in the winter months.”
To accommodate feedback for future desserts, the dining hall managers, referred to by Davidson as “the boys,” keep track of which desserts are preferred or not preferred. In fact, each dining hall’s students have their own idiosyncratic preferences. Bates favors cookies, Stone-Davis favors specialties such as tarts, Lulu Chow Wang favors “anything in a sheet pan” including brownies and bars and Tower enjoys a variety.
Claflin Bakery works closely with students through the Dining Services Advisory Board (DSAB), a committee of student representatives who serve as a liaison between students and the dining services. The DSAB meet with dining hall representatives to share what students enjoy and what they would like to see next. Claflin also takes into close account feedback written on comment cards. Davidson said, “We take that feedback and address it to keep dining fresh and new and to bring back items that [students] want to see again.”
Students can bring a piece of home with them to college by submitting recipes through Wellesley Fresh’s website www.wellesleyfresh.com under the “Engage” tab. With these recipes, Claflin Bakery plans a “Recipes from Home” event to showcase all submitted recipes. In fact, some recipes are incorporated into the seasonal menus on campus.
In addition to students’ input, President Paula Johnson’s feedback has also been incorporated. For her inauguration, Johnson had told the dining services that she loves healthy foods such as blueberries, oatmeal and dark chocolate. Thus, Davidson and her boss developed a cookie recipe using those ingredients.
“[Johnson] thoroughly enjoyed them that night, and the rest is history. They are quite delicious!” said Davidson.